Heavy Metal Dogs

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I ran across a disturbing article that got me thinking about food safety.  Trump’s plan to gut most of the regulatory agencies including the FDA puts corporate profits ahead of the interests of the people.  Fortunately, one hot dog maker recalled something like 200,000 pounds of franks after alert consumers found metal in some of the weenies.  There is no report on which metals were found, whether heavy, precious or rare earth elements, but I can assure this, metal won’t easily melt when boiled, broiled or grilled.  It would not have been the intent of the makers of Nathan’s Hot Dogs to provide the consumer a bit of crunch or a metallic aftertaste.  But what would stop an unregulated company from using whatever meat could be procured cheaply, say, horse, dog, chipmunk, squirrel, possum, house sparrow, cat, or rat? For that matter, might we one day find recycled cell phone parts in our hot dogs in the form of rare earth metals that make the meat look fresher and last longer sporting a half-life shelf life of nearly a thousand years? Imagine a heavy metal dog with an expiration date of 2112 guaranteed to produce noble gases.

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Top 10 Reasons to Vote Against Trump

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10.  Trump is a serial liar.  I’m not even sure he knows he lies as much as he does.  It’s as if he only has a short-term memory and a very tiny and selective long-term memory.  He seems to remember only slights and compliments.  He said he was against the Iraq war but is on record as saying he was for it.  He says he never met the disabled journalist he mocked at one of his rallies and yet the said journalist had interviewed him multiple times.  He said he respects women but is on record as saying he doesn’t and his actions and comments suggest otherwise.  He said his taxes are under audit, but has provided no proof that they are.  He and his surrogates have said he has given hundreds of thousands of his own money to his foundation but there is no proof that this is true.  He said Hillary Clinton is under investigation by the FBI and she technically is not. He said she is going to lock her up when he is elected and he can’t.  This is something done by Fascist regimes, not in a Democracy. He said he’s going to bring back jobs to America but leaves out that his own businesses manufacture outside the U.S. and buy products made in other countries that are also made in the U.S.  He said he met Putin, then said he doesn’t know Putin.  He has told so many lies and distorted the truth so many times about Hillary Clinton’s record that I’ve lost count.  Fact checkers reveal that Trump routinely lied during the debates and continues to do so at his rallies.  Trump says he is a great businessman, yet his companies have filed bankruptcy papers 6 times.  And amid fraud claims, Trump University folded.

9.  Trump might govern as an authoritarian dictator. He was inspired by a quote from a notable fascist, Benito Mussolini  which reads, “better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep,” and has praised Vladimir Putin repeatedly for being a strong man and for complimenting him for being “brilliant” which turned out to be a bad translation.  Putin himself clarified that he meant Trump is colorful or flamboyant, not brilliant.  Putin salivates at the prospects of using Trump as a puppet, which he seems to be doing to influence U.S. elections. Trump even went so far as to encourage the Russians to hack the missing 33,000 emails. This is outrageous – encouraging a foreign country to commit espionage on the U.S. and some would consider treasonous. Trump prides himself on being a strong man, with large hands and once bragged of being the best baseball player to come out of New York.  His masculine pride notwithstanding, Trump has shown a shocking lack of understanding and respect for democratic principles.

8.  Trump disrepects women.  He is on record as saying he likes to kiss them and grab them because he can get away with it.  A number of women have alleged that he sexually assaulted them.  His response has been that he doesn’t know the women and that after the election he is going to sue them all.  He is also on record as saying that women who obtain abortions should be punished.

7.  Tump has made racist and bigotted comments, calling Mexicans rapists, and denouncing a Mexican American judge as being biased in a case against Trump “University.” He was slow to denounce David Duke, a former KKK grand wizard who endorsed him.  He called for a ban on Muslims entering the country and even suggested the need to close down mosques.  He has essentially blamed the entire Muslim American community in the U.S. for not rooting out the terrorists among them – as if it were their sole responsibiltiy. He has shown very little concern for the humanitarian plight of Syrian refugees and argued that the U.S. should not accept any until we establish a vetting process, which we already have.  Trump has repeatedly dismissed the Black Lives Matter movement, has insisted that blacks live in hell, which many blacks take issue with, and has called for more policing.  He called for the death penalty for the black men who were wrongly convicted and subsequently exonerated for the rape of a central park jogger. And his father’s company, of which Donald was an employee, repeatedly discriminated against blacks in their housing properties and was fined by the Justice Department for doing so. Trump has appealed to white nationalists who blame immigrants for the ills of the country by promising to build a wall that Mexico will pay for to keep them out. Additionally, white supremcists groups including the KKK have endorsed Trump because they identify with his values. And now he is calling for people to go to the inner cities and watch (code for intimidate) for voter fraud in clear violation of the consent decree that the GOP was hit with in the 80’s for committing voter intimidation in New Jersey. One of the more egregious racist actions he has taken was questioning Obama’s citizenship and thus his right to be President. Then Trump tried to partially walk it back by suggesting that it was the Clinton camp in 2008 who started it all.  He tried to suggest that the many years he pushed this crazy birther conspiracy was somehow excusable because the story may not have begun with him.  And to top it off, he’s floated other consipiracy theories about whether Obama even attended Ivy schools demanding that he submit transcripts to prove he did.  This from a man who won’t even release his tax returns.

6. The Trump Foundation appears to be a fraud.  Apparently, people have contributed to the foundation and Trump has used some of this money to settle law suits and to buy a life-size portrait of himself. “Billionaire” Trump has said that he has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Foundation, but there is no evidence of this.  See David Fahrenthold’s reporting.  Not only is the Foundation fraudulent, but his business practices are suspect as evidence by the multiple contractors and small businesses who claim they were not paid for work done for Trump.  That coupled with his anti-union practices make Trump unfit to make anything about America or Americans great again.

5.  Trump refuses to release his tax returns that almost every presidential candidate in modern times has done before him, even his own running mate. He says he’s under audit and will release them after.  Nixon once released his while under audit.  There is nothing in the IRS code that prevents Trump from releasing tax returns while under audit if in fact he really is under audit.  He is obviously hiding something.  Could it be that he isn’t a billionaire?  Could it be that he has never given the charitable contributions that he said he has? Could it be that he does not pay taxes at all?  Actually, the one leaked release indicates that he did not and Trump subsequently said in a debate that the fact that he doesn’t pay taxes makes him smart.  A man who doesn’t pay taxes not because he’s poor but wealthy and privileged is a shameful man who is NOT a patriot.  Tax dollars fund education, defense, roads, entitlements, to name a few.  He is ok with YOU paying for these services and thanks YOU for paying them for him.

4.  Trump claims he is religious but is not, and apparently knows very little about religion.  Not that that religion is a test I use for a candidate, but he has shamelessly pandered to evangelicals suggesting that the Bible is his favorite book.  He does not seem to hold or practice ANY Christian values that I can detect raising doubts in my mind as to whether he has even read the Bible.

3. Trump seems to want to begin a nuclear arms raceHe has said that South Korea and Japan should have their own nuclear weapons.  He doesn’t understand why we have them if we can’t use them and has not ruled out their use in the future.  He is also on record saying that he likes war. What’s more, he has taken a pro-Russian position against NATO calling it ineffective and expensive and intimating that we should break our alliances in Europe. This is what I mean about Trump being Putin’s puppet – his Petrushka.

2.  Trump has no interest in governing.  He had even said that he would leave the buisness of governing to his running mate and simply go around the country making America great again, presumably by holding pep rallies. This is code for promoting his business brand which his children will continue to operate if he became president in an obvious conflict of interest.  He doesn’t seem to get how governing works and that he can’t just rule by decree.  He has repeatedly said that he will appoint supreme court justices without any mention of the senate’s role in the advise and consent process. Actually, the president can only nominate and there is no guarantee that the nomination will be confirmed by the senate or even get a hearing by the judiciary committee.  President Obama’s nominee, Garland, has yet to get a hearing and it has been nearly a year since Justice Antonin Scalia died leaving a vacancy on the court.

1.  His policies would simply be disatrous.  He calls for tax breaks for the rich.  He would end regulations that ensure safe food, water, drugs and air quality.  He would invest in practices that contribute to global warming which he denies is caused by humans.  He would end Obamacare resulting in millions losing health insurance. He might enact protectionist policies and start a trade war with China and Mexico.  The markets would respond disastrously and we would all lose our retirement savings and Social Security which Trump will probably have privatized.  If we are not wiped out by a nuclear war or swept away by rising ocean levels first, his policies will create a depression so deep it will make your head spin.

GMO Apple To Debut in the U.S. By 2017

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The U.S. Agriculture department just approved the first genetically altered apple for the U.S. market.  A Canadian outfit has designed, yes, DESIGNED, an apple that neither bruises nor browns when sliced open or bitten into.  I suppose it stays red and fresh for hundreds of years and has a half life of several billion, longer even than a discarded k-cup.  They reengineered the thing minus an aging protein or something of the like so that it appears fresher than it really is.  While it may not brown or bruise, it might taste just as soggy and mushy as a bruised apple would, unless they’ve managed to artificially preserve the crispness, which I admit would have a certain appeal, that is if they’ve not used something like formaldehyde.  I really don’t like soggy apples but I like the smell of formaldehyde even less.  And in my view, there is a place for soggy and brown apples and that would be in a jug of cider.

The Okanagan Specialty Fruit company that designed the GMO apple is planning to add a logo to the apple sticker in the form of a snowflake which would distinguish it from a real apple.  It’s interesting that the natural and pristine snowflake is their choice of logo for the born in the lab apple.  Maybe they are also planning to produce these apples to make Ice-Wine, which I rather like.  But is an apple even an apple, if it’s DNA has been altered? Isn’t it kind of like Froot Loops cereal?  The loops are not fruit, which is why the cereal is spelled Froot.  And like Cheez Whiz, which is the not the reel deel, the Canadian apple should be spelled to reflect its synthetic properties – say Apel or Aple or maybe Apul.  Since they designed out a protein, I think it only fitting the thing lose an l.

Say Goodbye to Butterfinger, Baby Ruth and yes Crunch too

229 to Butterfinger, Baby Ruth and Crunch because Nestle, the Swiss chocolatier has decided to mess with the ingredients of the classics. I say mess with because according to an article in the Washington Post,  Nestle plans to use natural ingredients in its candy bars as opposed to the chemically laden synthetic dyes and flavors that so many of us have come to love and crave over the years.  Gone will be such iconic ingredients as Yellow 4 and Red Dye #40, that make the bars so attractive to the eye.  Never mind that Red #40 is actually named 6-hydroxy-5-[(2-methoxy-5-methyl-4-sulfophenyl)azo]-2-naphthalenesulfonic acid and was born in a laboratory and not in nature.  And let’s not harp on the evidence that in some studies, Red 40, as it is affectionately known, altered the DNA of mice, and is thought to have the potential to produce serious allergic reactions and even cancer in some humans.  After all, most of us will die of cancer anyway, so what’s the big deal?  

The big deal is that our candy bars are going to look natural and taste like some hipster snack food with achiote tree seeds (fairly traded from the Guatemalan rain forest no doubt) and actual vanilla. Yes, actual vanilla!  If they start using real sugar as opposed to high fructose corn syrup, which I am addicted to frankly, I may just launch a Nestle boycott.  How dare they even consider going GMO free!  This may just be a sinister ploy to regain the German market that banned the GMO laden Butterfinger.

Plot or no plot, Nestle is going after more than the big three, although I really don’t care what they do with the inedible Crunch, maybe one of the worst chocolate bars on the planet, in the same company as the foul tasting Tootsie Roll.  But get this – soon the “neutral” Swiss company will be attacking SweeTARTS.  Without all the dyes, they may soon look like communion wafers or peppermint TUMS and taste like raw agave sap.  If they go designer on us, I’m out.  I don’t want a tart made from real cherries, limes or oranges.  Kids don’t want that either, I assure you.  Real fruit is not candy.  If Nestle keeps mucking with the ingredients, they might get the Germans back, but stand to lose the entire American market.

100% GMO Corn Found in Froot Loops

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Back in the day (which would have been the early 70’s) I ate cereal for breakfast, that and cinnamon toast.  I tried the cinnamon toast cereal but never much liked it as I recall, not nearly as good as the real thing.  Back in the 70’s, cereal actually may have been more of the real thing; today, not so much, with all the genetically modified organism (GMO) grains that go into the stuff, particularly corn, whose seeds have been altered in such a way that they produce toxins to ward off insects and weeds.  As products like cereal made from GMO grains are consumed, we humans are putting ourselves at risk, but just what the risks are, we don’t yet really know because, incredibly, there haven’t been any GMO human trials.  We do know that traces of one of the toxins, Bacillus thuringiensis, known as Bt, produced by the altered plants, has been found in humans.  And now we know that cereals like Froot Loops are made with 100% GMO corn grains that contain small amounts of the herbicide, glyphosate.  These “new and improved” colored loops no longer conjure up images of grapes, oranges, and limes as they once did and now seem much brighter, with an unnatural radiant glow.

DSC_0306If the U.S. moves to follow the 60+ countries that require manufacturers to label their GMO food products, it may make parents steer clear of Froot Loops, which really have nothing to do with fruit, hence the misleading spelling of “Froot”. A froot is as artificial as the grain from which the cereal is made, but it sure sounds healthy.  Wouldn’t it be a little more accurate to call them Glypho Loops? It does have a certain truthful ring to it.

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Keurig Goggles

IMAG0458You’ve probably heard of the angry and vengeful Keurig coffee machine that sprays scalding water at it’s owners or unsuspecting users at car dealerships.  I’m not sure why all this pent up rage in these precision machines, but it may have to do with the dirty “rumor” that the Keurig harbors a slimy, moldy, substance in its internal resevoir that is not easy to clean.  For more on this controversy, see the the popular article circulating all over the web – Why I Kicked My Keurig to the Curb. While it may be true that the Keurig harbors bacteria, so too do most all coffee machines as this article points out. Let’s face it, we live among germs.  Germs are on practically everything we touch.  But most folks who are reasonably healthy can co-exist with them which probably includes you. I would say we’d all be better off not using germicides and other toxic chemicals to rid our daily environments of germs and such.  Why not just spray a little vinegar here and there when the spirit moves and use the surplus vinegar for a bean salad.

We have a well-behaved and relatively new and clean Keurig in our household.  I have no beef with it yet.  It gurgles and grumbles a bit but makes a good cup of coffee.  Actually, I think I am becoming addicted to k-cups and am salivating at the thought of a Columbian Peeks 8 o’clock pod.  Now the rogue machines in question that misfire are a real hazard and should be taken seriously. To Keurig’s credit, they have voluntarily recalled over 6 million of them with details here on which machines are affected and what to do if you have one. If you chose to ignore the warning, please wear goggles, press the brew button and then run like hell out of the kitchen for 45 seconds.

To be honest, after reviewing the literature, I am more concerned with the plastic k-cups from which the coffee originates.  As you know, the Keurig pierces the plastic K-cup, or pod as it’s called, and as I referenced above, that contains the ground coffee and then shoots steaming hot water through the holes it made. Within 30 seconds, out comes the coffee and with it God only knows what but indubitably some chemical compound used in the manufacturing of the pods – see the article from Mother Jones for details on what it could be and what dangers it may pose. But let’s keep a little perspective here: the residue is likely less dangerous than non-dairy creamer and a piping hot cup of Joe in a styrofoam cup.

Uruguay Travelogue Day 6: Colonia del Sacremento

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On Monday, we took a “luxury” bus out to Colonia del Sacremento, about 2 and a half hours from Montevideo. We’ve gotten around the city almost entirely on foot and bus. The buses have been a cheap and reliable mode of transportation for the most part. Some of the buses, which you pay a little more for have padded seats and are more spacious. The less costly buses are generally more crowded and have plastic seats. You might be more comfortable standing unless you have a padded butt that can absorb the bumps. As the buses fill with people, they push to the back where everyone has to eventually exit which means if you are standing, people who need to get off will have to squeeze by you and there’s simply no place for you to go when you are being squeezed but into the people who are seated as you try to make yourself less present. But what annoys me more than anything is the fact that when you get onto the bus and pay, you get a ticket or some sort of receipt. I can’t fathom why the ticket is needed once you have paid and are on the bus. As far as I can tell, you can’t use it to transfer to another bus. The conductors don’t stop and inspect the tickets. I can’t imagine that people keep these receipts for tax purposes, but they might.  What do I know? When it comes to the ways of the Uruguayans, perhaps very little.

The charming resort town of Colonia del Sacremento reminds me a little of Cape Code in the wintertime. It feels as off the beaten path as Isla de Chiloe in Chile. And even though it is wintertime here, the place still had a number of tourists, some from Argentina and Brazil. Buenos Aires is only a 50 minute ferry ride from the port of Colonia.  The town has a lot of military history and apparently was something of a strategic outpost controlled at times by Portugal, Spain and Brazil and you can see both the Portuguese and Spanish influence on the layout of the town and in the architecture. One of the more eye pleasing objects was the lighthouse, completed by soldiers (not sure which country’s) in 1857, that one can climb for something like 20 pesos.

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The town has many museums, restaurants, churches and shops that sell local art, handicrafts and clothing. There are beaches on the Rio de la Plata, areas for camping and picnics in Aaron del Anchorena National Park and there’s even a bullring.

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But the highlight of the day was the restaurant we stumbled upon called Buen Suspiro which features local cheeses, wines, pastries, soups and entrees made with locally sourced ingredients.

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It is located in the cellar of a home that must have been built in the 1700’s by the Portuguese, with low hung wooden beams. The cavernous space had a intimate charm with about 10 tables in all. Our waiter explained the menu, which consisted of several types of appetizers including the one we selected which contained 4 types of local cheeses from mild to strong, bread, a spicy jam, cheese bread squares and balls and dry salami.

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We also sampled 6 different local wines – a Cuna Crianza Tannant Merlot blend, one of my least favorites of the 6; a Fripp Tannant, my personal favorite; a Cuna Reserva Riesling, a semi-dry white, with a zesty lime tang that keep the wine from being too sweet; a Cuna de Piedra Sauvignon Blanc; and two rose wines – a Cabernet and a Moscatel. I don’t like roses much so these were my least favorite of the lot.

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For entrees, we had a squash soup and a vegetable and meat lasagna. We ordered a slice of dulce de leche cake – to die for – and a round of mate.

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Our waiter explained to us how to prepare and drink mate, something we were not aware of even though we had experience drinking mate, Chilean-style, which is not as protocol dependent as the Uruguayan way and as our waiter pointed out, the Uruguayan way is not nearly as particular as the Argentine way.

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And we ended the day with a 8 dollar bar of chocolate -always ask the price before you buy something- and a double cortado para llevar. And so it went on Colonia de Sacremento on this cold winter day.

South America Travelogue – Montevideo

Santiago Day 3

We were in Santiago for 3 days and actually did not see much of the cordillera because we stayed in Lo Valle Campino, a hillside community near the airport, no Andes in sight, obscured by hills and smog. Nena took us to El Centro which I guess translates to downtown where we met up with my niece Nati and her boyfriend Andres to watch Chile vs. Holland. Fanaticos were out in force ready for a grand celebration that never happened as the Orange clad Dutchmen lead by striker Robben outplayed the scrappy Chilean squad.

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Downtown Santiago is a linear collection of buildings and shops for miles and miles. It has a little bit of a NYC feel without all the tall buildings and the sense of neighborhood. It felt like a giant outdoor shopping mall.

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Graffiti is in abundant supply and some curious and colorful murals adorn city walls and subway structures, some of it good, some not; some sanctioned, some clearly not.

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Our gracious Santiago hosts, Milton and Nena, made us feel at home in their tidy house with a living room constructed of pine wood adorned with local art. In addition to good conversation and cheer, we ate well. Nena served up Cazuela, a typical Chilean soup made with a clear broth, squash, beef, corn, potatoes, peas and green beans cut french style with pebre (a hot sauce) and fresh cut cilantro to sprinkle on top. She also served fish soup, fillet of reineta (a local fish) and Pastel De Choclo, a distinctive corn-based casserole. Wine poured a plenty, all local reds and whites. My favorite was the sweet late Harvest Riesling that had just the right balance of sweetness and acidity.

Montevideo, Days 1-2

From Santiago, we took a short flight to Montevideo and then a local bus from the Carrasco International airport to the city. We got off at our stop dragging our heavy bags, the heaviest weighing over 22 kilos, an oversized LL Bean bag. As we looked around for another bus to take to our friend’s apartment, we crossed a busy intersection, bags rolling behind us and I tripped over the bulky LL Bean bag my wife was dragging in front of me, getting good height and landing on my stomach atop my own bag, which served as sort of an air bag. Fortunately, I didn’t break any bones and only scrapped the bottom of my left hand that I used to help break my fall. The hand burned for a bit but seemed fine. When we finally got to the apartment, I noticed it was bleeding. I rinsed it off and applied a triple anti-biotic ointment I had brought along just in case. My youngest daughter, who witnessed the fall, could not stop laughing, to the point that she drew tears and a hiccup. I was not amused at the time. There were many locals standing around who also saw my tumbling act and god only knows what they must have thought of the strange gringo doing odd acrobatics with an orange bag.

If you know Spanish well, you will immediately notice that the Uruguayan accent is distinct. It’s hard to describe, but it has a sibilant quality, a sort of airy lisp that is pleasant to the ear, or at least to my ear. The people seem nice and accommodating thus far, although my wife had a bad encounter at La Chacra supermarket. All seemed fine at first. When we entered the store just as the sun set, a radio station was playing the song “Southern Nights”. The workers seemed friendly enough giving us recommendations on pasta, red sauce and the butcher prepared us a good cut of beef (lomo) that is popular in the country.  Uruguay is a meat eating place if ever there was one. And not surprisingly, beef is its major export.  But trouble began when my wife tried to buy the groceries unwittingly with my daughter’s debit card and her own ID. Obviously, the names didn’t match and they gave her a hard time about it. Ultimately, I had to pay with my debit card using my ID which matched. My wife asked the cashier to double bag some things but the cashier threw the bags at her in a huff and told her to “do it yourself”. True story. On a side note, I bought a combination corkscrew that cost 85 pesos or about $3.7 U.S. which turns out we didn’t need because there where 3 just like it in the kitchen drawer of our apartment.

We bought two 960 ml bottles of beer, one called Patricia, a hoppy and light lager, and a Pilsen Especial, which truthfully was not very special. The Patricia cost 57 pesos, ($2.49) and the Pilsen, 62 ($2.70). I doubt the locals drink these forgettable examples of Uruguayan swill. Being a local now for the next 7 days, I won’t be drinking the stuff either, well at least not the Pilsen.

The Internet here is interesting. For one, the government issues every resident, from what I can gather, equipment to enable free Wi-Fi – “Automatic for the People”. Our friend’s apartment has a modem/router with this free Internet but as we found out, it’s good for only 1 gigabyte of data per month which is little more than a few Google searches, 10 minutes of a movie on Netflix and about 4 photos uploaded and posted on Facebook. So, being the nice guests that we are, we used up her data plan as soon as we got on the Internet. After much bureaucratic maneuvering, several phone calls and a visit to the government owned Antel office, we, or more accurately, my eldest daughter  managed to “recharge” the 1 GB of data that we used for about 200 pesos ($10) and now we hope this gets us through our week. We pledged not to stream any movies or videos and only to check and send emails de vez en cuando.

We ventured downtown by bus (which is about the only mode of public transportation), got some maps of the city, headed to the Plaza de Independencia, to see the green statue of founding father Artigas, had an early dinner at the Cafe Brasilero that had free Wi-Fi, sent some emails, watched a World Cup match – Ecuador v. France, bought some beer and wine, which I am now sipping, the wine that is, a Uruguayan Gewurztraminer which cost about $8.60, that is, to be frank, slightly syrupy, not unlike a Viogner, and leaves a sweet and unpleasant medicinal cough drop like aftertaste. This recommended wine is unbalanced, but drinkable.

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The tourist information clerks said that Uruguay is known for meat and in particular, the Chivito sandwich, a carnivorous delight and what I ordered from the Chilean waiter at the Cafe Brasilero in an area of town called the Old City near Plaza Matriz. This cafe has been around since 1877 and sports antique chairs and tables, brass chandeliers and a big screen TV for world cup enthusiasts. It seems to be a good place to chill, get connected, have a bite and a Cortado, (the local version of a latte) which we did, or a drink, which we did not. The Chivito consists of bacon, ham, beef, tomato and lettuce served open-faced on toasted bread topped with a sunny side up egg surrounded by lettuce and fresh cut french fries, all for 230 pesos or about $10.

We walked a lot on our first day in the city. My pedometer had me at over 14,719 steps or 6.9 miles, which is the farthest I’ve walked by far since I began using the app on my phone back in October.

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Buses spew diesel fumes, and generally foul the air. Hybrid buses have not yet come to this big city nor has a subway system. Though we are not too far from Buenos Aires, the air is anything but good. And to make matters worse, everyone seems to smoke, and not just cigarettes, but weed too which is legal here.  With the air thick with toxins, and the population dieting largely on red meat, it’s a wonder the lifespan here is 76 years old.  Maybe I’m exaggerating, but it seems that most people are dressed in black. I’m not sure if this is just tradition for this time of year, which is the beginning of winter, or maybe it’s simply a fashion statement. People seem happy enough, but dress, ironically, as if going to a funeral.

Tattered Mural

Way Down South Day 1

Dawn Near Lima, Peru 25,000 feet up

Dawn Near Lima, Peru 25,000 feet up

Where to begin, if to begin.  Stressed.  Tired.  Cranky and disoriented at Terminal 8 at JFK International in search of a flight out to Santiago, Chile after missing our flight.  We had an overly ambitious travel plan to drive from Boston to NY at 12:30 pm and catch an 8 pm international flight.  There would be no room for error, or delays.  And delays were all we encountered from Bridgeport, CT to the Bronx. Traffic, accidents, construction, slow cars, hidden cops and a few unplanned stops.  But I was hungry and the self-designated driver!!! What should have taken only 4 and one half hours, took nearly 7.  We arrived at the car rental return place finally and Frazier, the friendly return clerk and World Cup enthusiast, rushed us to Terminal 8 in record time weaving in and out of traffic like a expert taxi driver.  Despite his Mario Andretti like effort, we were late nonetheless, by two minutes, and our seats were given to folks on standby.  After much pleading in Spanish with the mostly helpful and sympathetic LAN Chile staff, we were put on standby for the next flight out to Santiago via Lima and we did get on that flight in the end which left about 2 and a half hours later than our original flight, which would have put us in Santiago at 6 am. As happened, we made it to Santiago by noon.  It could have been worse…a lot worse.

If you happen to get stranded at JFK, hope that it’s not in Terminal 8, which reminds me of the REM song, “Driver 8”. But if you are stranded there, here’s a tip:  shuttle over to another terminal before all the “restaurants” close.  If you don’t, you’ll have to make do with the Juan Valdez Cafe that serves over-priced chocolate muffins, pre-made sandwiches and salads intended for the carnivorous traveler.  Drink the coffee if adventurous, that is to say if you are addicted to Starbucks or, as in my case, Dunkin Donuts.  If you happen to be traveling on Lan Chile Airlines, go ahead and starve yourself and wait for the meal on the plane which is is sure to be decent as food goes 8 miles high.  I had the merken spiced chicken with crunchy green beans and a curiously spongy brownie. LAN serves free booze, good for the nervous flyer, and I’d recommend the Sauvignon Blanc which will be re-filled upon request.  For the beer drinker, enjoy a free Heineken or two, if you like GMO free brew – but you’ll have to request it – the flight attendants’ carts only display wine.

We landed in Lima around 8 am with a two hour layover and boarded a 787 Dreamliner bound for Santiago.  The Dreamliner.  It had been a dream deferred for me and for the troubled Boeing model too, but now all battery systems seem to be in order and the plane truly flies smooth as a dream and reliably it seems for Lan Airlines.  The wingspan of this luxury liner is truly something to behold.  It’s like the length of a football field and one would think the thing would be awfully difficult to fly, but it glides as agile and elegant as a butterfly in flight. And the entertainment system is second to none.  I listened to Radiohead’s, Kings of Limb, and could have watched any current movie or TV series I could have imagined, from VEEP to House of Cards.  Instead, I played Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (the British version) and I might have become one, had it not been for the fact that I did not know the expression “Down in the Mouth”.

Los Andes

Los Andes over Chile from 787 Dreamliner window seat 32C

And so it goes or went as it were and I’m no British millionaire but I safely arrived with family in Santiago, Chile and have enjoyed visiting with our friends and family.  We’ll leave for Montevideo on Tuesday for a week and then fly to Rio for 3 and back to Chile for another 2 weeks.  Our adventures have only just begun.  Stay tuned for more posts.  If you’d like to see photos and more stuff from our trip, follow our exploits on twitter #cazuelangrits.

 

Twin Yolks

Twin Yolks

The odds of cracking open an egg to reveal two yolks and not breaking one or both are astronomically high.  Before this morning, I had never heard of such a feat or even knew twin yolks were possible.  In fact, I never even thought about it, and I think a lot about silly things that occupy too much space in my brain.  When I cracked open a brown Cage Free Organic (CFO) this morning and saw the split, I thought it was all a freaky hallucination, perhaps a rare side effect of the Prilosec I had taken earlier.  I quickly snapped it before it disappeared and posted a photo to my Facebook and Instagram accounts in hopes that someone would reassure me that I had not lost touch with reality.  What I learned was that twin yolks are a sign of good luck.  Of course, some of my friends “cracked” yokes about it with references to Chernobyl and politics.

I actually feel incredibly accomplished now that I’ve split the yolk. I think I know how the nuclear fissionists must have felt when they first split the atom.  It must have been a shock and a real rush.

But back to the chickens.  I wonder if the fact that the hens from this particular batch of eggs had roamed free had anything to do with producing twins? Isn’t this the best case yet for poultry producers to free their hens from cages?  Imagine if each egg contained two yolks.  We’re talking double the profits here.  Instead of a dozen eggs, folks would only need to buy 6 (smaller, cheaper packaging) and crack one for 2.  Who has time to crack multiple eggs in the morning anyway.  I know I don’t.  And the mess.